Members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are deliberately attacking security formations in the South East to steal weapons in order to fight for the actualisation of the Biafra Republic, experts and security operatives have said.
Also, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has described the assault on the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) and the police headquarters in Imo State as a sign of state failure, saying the federal government allowed non-state actors to take charge.
Credible sources said the IPOB members who stormed Owerri, the Imo State capital in the early hours of Monday, and launched multiple attacks, started their journey from Onitsha in Anambra State and drove for over two hours at night.
It was learnt that the gunmen met resistance from soldiers at Ukworji along Onitsha-Owerri Express Way but overpowered the security operatives.
Two soldiers were said to have been killed while their vehicles were burnt by the assailants.
Another source said a high level security signal was ignored by the South-East governors, including the commissioners of police in the five states in the region.
“There was a signal from Abuja to the governors of Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu and Abia States.
“The commissioners of police in the states were also informed that members of the outlawed IPOB and their so-called Eastern Security Network (ESN) were planning to launch attacks.
“I think the leaders there must share part of the blame because they were told from Abuja that the miscreants would target security formations in order to get arms,” he said.
It was gathered that the assailants had made fruitless attempts to take over the Imo State Government House but were resisted.
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has condemned the attacks, saying the primary intendment of the IPOB members was to create fears in the minds of the people and at the same time strive to secure the release of their fellow criminals in custody.
‘Attacks are about secession’
A retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Ambrose Aisabor, said on Monday that the IPOB agitators are bent on declaring the Biafra republic and therefore building up their armoury by attacking security formations.
According to him, this explained why the security arm of the proscribed group has not been attacking innocent citizens.
He said, “If you look at it, they are not attacking ordinary people. They are attacking the police, the army, and the air force that is what they are doing.
“Why they are attacking those military formations is because they want to have enough ammunition to enable them prosecute their war against the government of Nigeria. They want to have their own police; they want to have their own armoury and so on.”
AIG Aisabor said they have become so emboldened to attack the security formations because of the failure of intelligence on the part of the security agencies.
According to the security expert, it is high time the security agencies improved on their intelligence gathering to forestall future attacks.
He also called on the federal government to urgently convoke a national security summit involving all stakeholders including the security experts, traditional rulers, religious leaders and government officials, to come up with solutions on addressing the insecurity in the land especially the South-East part of the country.
Also speaking, Veteran Wale Okunniyi, who is the convener of June 12 Pro-Democracy Movement and spokesman for the National Consultative Front (NCFront), said the government allowed the IPOB challenge to degenerate.
“As we speak today, there is no national understanding. There are suspicion and distrust here and there.
“Until the government is able to facilitate or join us to facilitate a real national consultation and understanding, attacks by the likes of IPOB would continue,” he added.
A senior military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the attack is a confirmation that terrorism has come to stay in Nigeria, lamenting that the political class is not confronting the evil in an appropriate manner.
The officer believed the attack was carried out by members of IPOB and was for the purpose of sending a message to the government on the strength of the group.
“The unfortunate thing is that the political class and those in authority are not doing enough to stem the tide. IPOB will launch more attacks. They have passed a statement with this and will likely launch more if they are not stopped,” he said.
Terrorists monopolise violence – Falana
Speaking on the Imo attack, Falana said the security architecture of the neo-colonial state has collapsed, hence the monopoly of violence has been taken over by terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other nihilist forces.
According to him, “A governor has disclosed that there are 30,000 bandits in the North West region alone. That is in addition to the large army of the Boko Haram sect in the North East region. Kidnappers and other criminal gangs have taken over the rest of the country.
“In the midst of the worsening security situation coupled with a nationwide strike by resident doctors the president has left the country to take care of his own health.
“The situation is going to get worse as nobody is in charge of the affairs of the country. Another recession is in the offing as many businesses are folding up while others are withdrawing huge funds from the banks.
“Since the government has lost control of the security and the economy, the choice before Nigerians is to set up defence committees for the protection of each community as a temporary measure.
“For lasting solutions, it is high time that genuine progressive forces embarked on mass mobilisation to prepare the Nigerian people for the ultimate socialist reconstruction of the country,” Falana said.
How the attack was launched
According to security sources and lodgers at the nearby Rockview Hotel, the attackers arrived at the Nigerian Correctional Service and Imo Police Headquarters at about 1 am on Monday in more than 20 vehicles comprising of Hilux and Sienna model to launch the attacks.
They were said to have entered Owerri and surrounded the roundabout opposite the Government House, sang for some secessionists songs for minutes and made incarnations.
Thereafter, they divided themselves into groups. While some marched to the custodial facility, others moved to the headquarters of the state police command.
The gunmen that moved to the correctional service were said to have tried to use grenades and dynamites to break down the wall to no avail.
A custodial official who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said, “Immediately they arrived they told the two men on duty that they were not there to kill anybody.
“They asked them to drop their guns and run away. They thereafter moved in going from one cell to the other, ordering inmates to flee.
“They told them that they had no reason to be in prison because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
“They thereafter moved to the offices and burnt all the warrant documents and other files. They were shooting up, an indication that they are not truly on a mission to kill. The only inmate that died was weak and he slumped.”
The official said that the gunmen thereafter set on fire all the cars on sight, including the operational vehicles.
A security source said that those that attacked the police headquarters first approached the guards at the Government House gate and simply told them that their mission was not to kill, but to send a statement to the federal government. They told them to run for their lives after which they riddled the gate with bullets.
They were said to have marched around the police headquarters unchallenged and set all the vehicles ablaze. They also attacked the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department and set free all the detainees.
Police blame IPOB
The Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, has ordered the immediate deployment of additional units of Police Mobile Force (PMF) and other Police Tactical Squads to Imo State to strengthen security in Imo State and prevent further attacks on security formations.
In a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba, the IGP said that preliminary investigations revealed that the attackers, who came in their numbers with sophisticated weapons such as General-Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), AK49 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), are members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/Eastern Security Network (ESN).
The statement said the attempt by the attackers to gain access to the police armoury at the headquarters was resisted by police operatives on duty.
“The armoury is thus intact. Similarly, the police suffered no human casualty, apart from a police constable who sustained a minor bullet wound on his shoulder.
“The IGP, who condemned the attack on the security outfits, has further directed the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command and a new Special Investigation Team (specifically set up to deal with cases of incessant attacks on security formation/operatives in the region), to carry out holistic investigations into the incident with a view to fishing-out the perpetrators and bringing them to justice,” the statement said.
6 inmates returned, 35 refused to escape
The Nigerian Correctional Service said yesterday that six inmates had voluntarily returned while 35 others refused to escape from custody after the correctional facility was attacked.
A statement signed by the spokesman for the Corrections Service, Francis Enobore, quoted the Acting Controller-General of Corrections, John Mrabure ordering a comprehensive investigation into the incident.
“The Owerri Custodial Centre in Imo State has been attacked by unknown gunmen and forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates in custody,” the statement said.
End the anarchy in Imo – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered relevant agencies of the federal government to end what he called “anarchy” in Imo State.
In a statement on Monday by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, Buhari condemned what he called a “deadly insurgent attack.”
The president also ordered security and intelligence agencies in the state and the geo-political zone to fully mobilise and go after the terrorists, apprehend them and get them punished under the full weight of the law.
IPOB kicks, as Nnamdi Kanu ‘hails’ attacks
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, has reacted to Monday’s attack in Imo. Few minutes after the attack, Kanu tweeted that no single soul deserves to be in any prison in Nigeria.
“If Miyetti Allah terror herdsmen & other murderous #Fulani groups, including Boko Haram insurgents, can be arrested, freed and rehabilitated by this neo-colonial Fulanised @NGRPresident, then no single soul deserves to be in any prison in Nigeria. If you know you know! #UGM,” he tweeted.
However, the Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, had denied any involvement in the Imo attack.
“IPOB and ESN are known groups, not unknown gunmen. ESN is in the bush chasing Fulani terrorists, why linking IPOB and ESN to this attack. IPOB and ESN were not involved in the attack in Owerri Imo State and the recent attack on Onitsha Owerri road at Ukwuorji junction.
“It is not our mandate to attack security personnel or prison facilities,” he said.